I set the plastic bag filled with homemade sandwiches in the passenger seat of my car before driving off. I had put together enough meals to feed 20 people this time and I was hopeful it´d be enough. As I drove through the downtown streets of the city, fiercely avoiding the wholes on the broken roads, the tired looking houses, the dead gardens and the bony stray dogs, were sad characters in this reality of struggling poverty. As a Colombian, I have seen some poverty, but today, being here, it felt far more real and sad than ever.
I parked in front of the white, ran-down house. The handwritten sing on top of the main door read, Refugio Temporal (Temporary Shelter). Four old men sat outside on the sidewalk watching the still air of the dirty and empty street. As I got out of my car I looked around to ensure that I saw nothing threatening, fully conscious that my appearance didn´t match my surroundings. The four men were of course curious, and warmly replied that they were having a good afternoon after I greeted them. They told me that they shared the tiny and extremely overcrowded shelter with another 40-50 people, some of whom had jobs as street vendors, and others -themselves included- too old to be hired, or to find anywhere else to go.
"I brought 20 meals if you´d take them." Their eyes turned wide, grateful and tearful. "Of course," they replied. One of the old men, too weak to stand up on his own, was assisted by his friend-or in this situation, his battle partner. They took the bag of sandwiches, and the fruit juices I had brought for them. In exchange I received their warm hugs and their sincere "gracias." I could find no better way to have been rewarded, but to see their smiles of joy and their gratefulness. "Do you have any extra shoes?" One man asked. "No, but I will be back soon with a pair for you."
With this promise, I kissed and hugged the men goodbye. I got in the car, and as I drove away, I thanked god for this experience, over and over and over again, and over again. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness, for the men´s presence; for their warmth; I was grateful for having had the opportunity help them in any way.
Today I am grateful, for this won´t be my last visit.
Colombian, living and traveling the world (well- not so much at the moment) I am currently sharing my time between San Diego, CA and Albuquerque, NM.